“From one of the most beautiful, biodynamic-farmed vineyards on earth,” wrote Mike Bennie in the introduction to his review of last year’s Riesling / Grüner release from Burn Cottage. It really is a slice of heaven. Looks aren’t everything when it comes to wine, of course, but there are some places that cast a spell. If you’re lucky, the divine surroundings where grapes grow are matched by exquisite wines – wines that leave you with the impression that you’ve basked in all that beauty.
Burn Cottage is one such place.
It’s striking how much the critical responses extol the sensual pleasure as much as the structural or technical virtues of these wines. “A wine of tremendous appeal and seduction,” wrote Joe Czerwinski of Wine Advocate. “Delightful. So well done,” said Gary Walsh of The Wine Front. Cam Douglas MW called it “a lovely example”, while Business Insider’s Frank Wilden declared it “positively lissom and an absolute pleasure to drink”. Bob Campbell MW of The Real Review branded it “totally seductive”, adding: “The texture is to die for and the wine has impressive power as evidenced by a lingering finish that won’t quit.”
Campbell rated this release’s predecessor no. 1 from 98 Central Otago Pinot Noir wines tasted from the ’16 vintage. He’s the first to write up his thoughts on the 2017, too, which he slapped with a 97-point score in proclaiming it “a seriously good Pinot Noir”.
Central Otago has a lot going for it, but it’s not an easy place to grow great wines. What’s more, 2017 was not a straightforward season. But this is a site blessed by nature, borne of love, conceived with intelligence and farmed with a diehard dedication to bring its many subtle charms irresistibly to life.
2016 Burn Cottage Riesling / Grüner Veltliner RRP $68
52% Riesling and 48% Grüner Veltliner. The first pick took place on 5th April, followed by a second pick on 13th April 2016. The grapes came in with average Brix of 20.9. The Riesling had 24-48 hours skin contact, with whole clusters given a gentle foot crush to bathe the bunches in juice. The Grüner Veltliner had up to 34 hours whole berry skin contact with gentle foot crush. Each pick was pressed together to form a single juice, then given a static settling overnight before being racked off of heavy lees. Fermented and aged in stainless steel barrels and old oak barriques for 11 months. Alcohol 13%; pH 3.17; TA 6.8 g/L.
The wine displays great aromatic layers with bright notes of lime flower, freshly cut ginger, peach kernel and bergamot tea along with a lovely herbal note. The palate is one of poise and finesse, with a fine structure supported by mouthwatering chalk-like acidity extending through. Wonderful mineral notes lend energy and focus. Early in its development for now, this wine will reward further with time. – Claire Mulholland, Burn Cottage
Co-fermented but picked in two waves. Fermented to dryness. Some skin contact (up to 48 hours) to build texture, sees both oak and stainless steel. From one of the most beautiful, biodynamic-farmed vineyards on earth.
Complex white of assertive fragrance, bright flavour, energetic acidity, fine chalky texture. Drives so well across the palate, a scorching blaze of zestiness, ‘mineral character’ and citrus fruit character. Steely finish seals the deal. Needs time to show its best, but blazing a brilliant trail now. 94 points. Mike Bennie, The Wine Front August 2018
2016 Burn Cottage Moonlight Race Pinot Noir RRP $68
Harvest began on 18th March and ended on 6th April, with the fruit picked by hand with an average Brix of 21.7. The ferment included 22% whole clusters, with the fruit spending an average of 18 days in the fermenter. Maturation took place in Damy and Mercurey barrels, of which 19% were new.
The fruit comes from nine Pinot Noir clones grown on three vineyards: Burn Cottage (21%); Northburn (20%); and Mark II (59%). Northburn Vineyard is located in the Cromwell Basin on the east bank of Lake Dunstan. It has a gentle northwest to southeast slope at an elevation of 200-257 metres. Soils are a mix of glacial fans and washes previously used for alluvial gold: stony loams, river stones, clays and schist. Vine age 13-17 years. Burn Cottage manages its rows according to organic principles.
Mark II Vineyard is located in the foothills of the Pisa range north of Lowburn, around 12km from Cromwell. It’s set on north- and east-facing slopes at an elevation of 250-350 metres. The blocks are differentiated by soil and aspect, and originate from tertiary glacial deposits: fine clays, schist, quartz, manganite and free draining gravel loams. Vine age 15 years; sustainably farmed.
The wine shows enticing bright fruit notes with cherry, rosehip and spice box aromas, but there are also rich earth and dark savoury notes here. The palate is one of elegance, concentration and power, while supple, harmonious tannins give wonderful persistence to the wine. Vibrant and youthful now, this wine also promises very good cellaring potential. Alcohol 13%; pH 3.79; TA 4g/L. – Claire Mulholland, Burn Cottage
Generous, stylish, spicy and expressive, with plump blackberry, clove and plum flavours wrapped around a thread of black liquorice. The texture is smooth and lush, while the tannins provide appealing traction on the finish, where a fresh green sage note comes in. 94 points. MaryAnn Worobiec, Wine Spectator September 2019
Central Otago experienced a mild winter, and after an initially dry spring, there were periods of rain. Early bud-burst was followed by cooler temperatures aside from brief heat spikes in November. Windy conditions started in November, and December was also cool which meant flowering and set were very patchy. Mild conditions prevailed through to mid-February, with rain at times and nights often dipping below 10ºC. Wind continued to be a challenge and vine canopies were quite low in vigour. By late February the temperatures lifted and véraison progressed well. Crops were very low due to the season – tiny bunches and small berries. The small clusters ripened earlier than usual and were picked in early April.
2017 Burn Cottage Vineyard Pinot Noir RRP $92
Pinot Noir fruit (clones 5, 114, 115, 667, 777, 828, 943, 10/5, MV6 and Abel) were handpicked from nine blocks across the biodynamic-certified Burn Cottage vineyard at a ripeness of 22.7 Brix between 28th March and 10th April 2017. The fruit was fermented with 13% whole clusters, spending a total of 21 days on skins on average. The wine was matured in Damy, Mercurey, Sylvain barrels (25% new). Alcohol 13.5%; pH 3.65; TA 5.4g/L.
Bright lifted red fruit notes complement darker savoury earth tones along with spice, a touch of chocolate and subtle blood orange nuances. The palate is generous and complex, focused throughout by a mineral freshness and energy, and supported by lovely acidity with persistence of fine textural tannins. A wine that will continue to gain complexity, and we expect a cellaring potential of 10+ years. – Claire Mulholland, Burn Cottage
I never swallow samples during tasting but got pretty close with this wine. It’s just so damn delicious with layer upon layer of fruit and savoury characters that defy description. A tease of fruit sweetness is balanced by gentle tannins and subtle acidity that drive a very lengthy finish. A seriously good Pinot Noir. 97 points. Bob Campbell MW, The Real Review
Pale ruby-purple. Rose and some leafiness, with vanilla-cream oak touches. Fragrant, primary red cherry. Pure, with ripe, focused red cherry, subtle spice and elegant tannins. Long. 18/20 Tim Jackson MW, jancisrobinson.com July 2019
2017 Burn Cottage Valli Vineyard Pinot Noir RRP $92
One of our dear friends in Central Otago is Grant Taylor, the former winemaker of Gibbston Valley Vineyards and proprietor of Valli Vineyards, one of the great producers of Central Otago. Grant is an iconic figure in Central, equally beloved for his wonderful wines and his quick wit. Over the course of several months in 2013 we decided that it would be great fun to swap grapes from each other’s estate vineyard and make the wines, with each of us vineyard-designating the result. This is the third year of our collaboration. In our view, there’s no finer vineyard in the Gibbston region than Grant’s. The professionalism, care and love which go into the management of this site are exemplary.
Pinot Noir bunches (clones UCD5, Dijon 115 and Dijon 777) were hand-harvested from 18-year-old vines on 7th April 2017 at a ripeness of 23.3 Brix. All fruit was destemmed and spent 20 days on skins. Aged in Damy oak (29% new). Alcohol 13%; pH 3.58; TA 5.7g/L.
The 2017 Burn Cottage Valli Vineyard wine displays layers of cherry, plum, liquorice, chocolate and dark savoury complexity. The palate has richness and succulence with a balanced delicate acidity, firm tannins and a lovely persistence. Cellar for 8-10 years. – Claire Mulholland
A grape exchange with Grant Taylor of Valli Vineyards from his Gibbston vineyard. Seamless, silken and tantalisingly complex wine with dark cherry, berry, herb, floral, red rose and spicy oak flavours. A very impressive truly age-worthy Pinot Noir. 96 points. Bob Campbell MW, The Real Review August 2019